How to Keep Your Data Safe While Applying for Jobs: 6 Tips

In today’s digital age, applying for jobs has never been more convenient – or more risky.  With a few clicks, you can submit your resume and personal information to potential employers across the globe.  However, this convenience also opens the door for cybercriminals to use fake job postings to gather sensitive data and steal identities. Identity theft is a serious epidemic, and it’s only getting worse.   As a job seeker, you may be particularly vulnerable. You’re eager to share information and afraid to miss out on opportunities. However, divulging too much personal data can have severe consequences.  Here’s how to protect yourself while navigating the job application process.

1. Don’t Overshare

In the early stages, employers should only need basic contact information like a professional email address, safe phone number, and LinkedIn details.  Don’t volunteer sensitive data while filling out online applications. These include things like your birthdate, National Insurance number, or home address. Only share these once you’ve established trust with a legitimate company. After all, during the initial screening process, employers are sifting through hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. All you need to share during the first stage of the application process is proof of qualifications and interest. This includes things like relevant professional experience, skills, qualifications, and education. Include a contact email address, and you’re good to go.

2. Follow Online Safety Best Practices 

Do you follow the basics of online safety? A 2017 report by CIFAS showed a 125% increase in cases of identity fraud, with 84% of those cases occurring online. There are several simple practices you should follow while applying for jobs online. These will diminish the likelihood of your data being stolen or misused:
  • Stick to reputable job sites with a proven track record of security;
  • Create separate email addresses and phone numbers specifically for your job search;
  • Be wary of unsolicited requests for personal information from supposed “recruiters”;
  • Avoid using open Wi-Fi networks when handling secure data.
Be cautious and keep your wits about you. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when navigating important situations such as job-seeking – don’t let yourself become a victim.

3. Keep Personal Details Off Your CV

Similarly to our first point, your resume should also never include personal information that could be used to access accounts or answer security questions. These include details such as:
  • Your birthdate;
  • Your National Insurance number;
  • Your mother’s maiden name;
  • Your home address.
Sending your CV is usually the very first step of a job application. At that stage, there is no need for potential employers to have access to this information. You may be tempted to include as much information as possible to show your eagerness, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Leaving this information out reduces the risk of it falling into the wrong hands. Often, this information can be used to answer security questions or commit identity theft.

4. Research Potential Employers 

Some positions may be online job scams posted by fake employers. Before applying, vet the company thoroughly:
  • Check reviews on career insight and employer review websites;
  • Verify the company website looks professional and legitimate; 
  • Ensure the job listing’s email address exactly matches the company domain;
  • Look for the company’s physical address and contact details;
  • Search to see if the job is posted on other reputable sites.
Remember: some email addresses may closely resemble a legitimate company’s domain. Pay close attention to spelling and spot any irregularities. Make sure you examine the job description closely. Does it sound too good to be true? Are there spelling or grammatical errors, unrealistic salary offers, or anything that seems too good to be true? If anything seems questionable, trust your instincts and proceed with caution. If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is.

5. Avoid Public Wi-Fi

As tempting as it may be to take advantage of free public Wi-Fi to apply for jobs on the go, try to avoid this at all costs – especially when handling sensitive personal data.  Public networks are a prime target for cybercriminals. Cybercriminals attempt to snoop on data passing through – this can happen in cafés, shopping centres, or any place offering free Wi-Fi. When uploading resumes or filling out job applications, stick to secure, password-protected networks you trust. These can be your home Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot.  If you don’t have access to private Wi-Fi networks, you can protect yourself by making sure you remain connected to a VPN at all times.

6. Use a VPN for Extra Security

Let’s expand on the topic of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): one easy way to add an extra layer of protection is by using a VPN when job searching online.  Connecting to a UK server VPN while filling out job applications online will help protect your privacy. This is particularly important if you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. A VPN encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address, making it much harder for hackers to intercept your data or track your online activity. By following these proactive steps, you can protect your personal information and identity while maximizing your job search efforts.

Making Safety a Priority

Ultimately, a little precaution goes a long way in keeping your data secure. Don’t let the fear of missing out on opportunities cause you to carelessly put your sensitive information at risk.  Stay vigilant by:
  • Only providing necessary information to legitimate employers;
  • Sticking to trusted job sites and avoiding potential scams;
  • Leveraging online security tools like separate emails and VPNs;
  • Doing thorough research on companies before applying.
With some common sense and the tips above, you can safely navigate the online job application process without jeopardising your data. Your top priority should be protecting yourself from identity theft – an opportunity isn’t worth that risk.  Proceed thoughtfully, and you’ll maximise your chances for career success while keeping your information out of the wrong hands.
March 27, 2024
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